This Week in USBP History, Vol. 82
March 26 - April 1
Welcome to another This Week in USBP History!
Last week I highlighted the unrecognized heroism of retired Supervisory Border Patrol Agent Mark Hall. His story and hundreds like his provided motivation to add sections in the USBP Honorary Awards policy (see Sections 4.14 and 5.3) that enabled their recognition for their past actions. Unfortunately, many worthy employees, and former employees still have not received recognition from the Patrol.
Today, I'm going to write about the Remember the Alamo story that I used to inspire those in leadership positions to support recognizing past actions. The incident was in last week's blog, it was Ruben Mendoza's Newton-Azrak Award action anniversary from 2013.
Let me tell you that action and how it helped hundred's of agents receive long overdue recognition...
Near Hebbronville, Texas, on March 21, 2013, shortly after the midnight shift started, Border Patrol Agents Cary Scott and Pedro “Pete” Saldivar were on roving patrol and stopped to assist an individual they initially believed to be a stranded motorist. Cary got out of the patrol vehicle to speak to the driver while Pete ran the tags.
Agent Ruben Mendoza had just arrived at the location, as it was coincidentally near the intersection that the three of them had earlier agreed to meet. Ruben had pulled his marked SUV in front the suspect vehicle, a sedan, and took a position near the front.
Cary and the driver were standing near the rear quarter panel of the car, near the open back door when everyone heard dispatch, KAK-940, respond that the vehicle was stolen.
Hearing the report, the driver immediately dove into the backseat. Sensing that the driver was attempting to obtain a weapon, Cary dove in after the driver and began to grapple with him.
Meanwhile, Pete ran to the open door and started trying to pull both Cary and the suspect out of the vehicle. Ruben, having no room to wedge himself into the backdoor to assist, staged himself nearby to help once the suspect was out of the vehicle.
Inside the car, Cary was at a horrible disadvantage having fallen on the floorboard between the front and back seats. Nonetheless, he continued to grapple with the suspect. Very soon, Cary realized that the suspect was attempting to get something out of a nearby backpack. He yelled that warning to Pete and Ruben.
Then the nightmare… Cary saw the glint of a pistol in the suspect’s hand. The suspect had gotten the gun!
Then four things happened at nearly the same time. Cary yelled “gun”! Pete pulled both Cary and the suspect out of the car by their pant legs. The suspect fired twice, one hitting Pete. Ruben drew to his pistol to the low ready and maneuvered to get a good sight picture of the suspect.
The leg wound that Pete suffered was so severe that it took him out of the fight. It was a life-threatening wound that would require him to be airlifted to the hospital and from which he would fully recover.
Once out of the car, instead of making distance from the suspect, Cary, who was on his knees, continued to tenaciously grapple with the standing suspect. This prevented the shooter from delivering accurate fire.
Cary’s valiant struggle couldn’t hold the shooter any longer, and he broke free, which gave Ruben a clear sight picture.
In the dark, on the side of the road, under fantastic pressure… Eight shots were fired, and the shooter absorbed eight hits. The fight was over.
Of course, Laredo Sector wanted to recognize the heroic actions of their agents. So, Laredo nominated Ruben, Pete, and Cary for the Newton-Azrak Award (as a group), the Patrol’s highest recognition. At the time and until 2018, the Newton-Azrak Award could recognize teams or groups of employees. Now it is only for individuals, based on the individual’s actions.
When the nomination reached HQ in Washington DC, it was denied and returned to the Laredo Sector. The origin of the rejection, whether from USBP Workforce Management or CBP HRM, remains unclear. At the time, the Newton-Azrak Award was a Commissioner's Award managed by HRM, since 2018 it has been a USBP award overseen by the Patrol. The refusal stated that a single Newton-Azrak Award action could not recognize more than two agents. This decision contradicted years of precedent, as there were numerous instances of groups with over two agents receiving Newton-Azrak Awards.
Laredo Sector was in a pickle. What were they going to do? Well, they decided to nominate Ruben for the Newton-Azrak Award, which he received, because he stopped the shooter. Since Pete was shot, they nominated him for and he received the Commissioner’s Meritorious Service Award for Valor and the USBP Purple Cross. Cary was neither nominated for nor received any recognition.
In 2017, after convincing the leadership that the Patrol needed a historian to promote organizational pride and a dedicated agent to make sure that the workforce’s stellar work received appropriate recognition, I was in a position to make a difference, to do good for the Patrol and its people!
Weeks later, as the Patrol’s awards coordinator, I received an email inquiring about the lack of recognition for Cary. His story was not widely known. Research was conducted, and it was discovered that the events described in this post had taken place. The Texas DPS report on the shooting was obtained, and the trooper credited Cary with saving himself and his partners by tenaciously fighting with the suspect while yelling warnings to them. And Cary got nothing!
While pitching the USBP Honorary Awards, every USBP Senior Executive at HQ heard Cary’s story. When the importance of employee recognitions was briefed to the Commissioner in 2018, the Commissioner heard Cary’s story. The briefing would always conclude with, “Certainly, we can do better for the workforce. Certainly, we can do better for Cary.”
Years after his action, Cary would receive the Patrol’s second-highest award for heroism and valor, the USBP Commendation Medal with a “V” device. His long over due recognition corrected a years long wrong. His award not only recognized his extraordinary heroism but it provided affirmation that Cary did right by the Patrol.
Starting with Cary's precedent setting recognition, the Patrol has recognized hundreds of employees' worthy past actions, but there are hundreds more to go.
Now to the history...
This week stars in 1907 with 19 people coming to Jeff Milton's rescue after he had accidentally shot someone in the foot. We have a 1926 document that provides the earliest known evidence of the Patrol being authorized to enforce laws other than immigration laws. Also in 1926, the single most influential document in USBP history came into effect, General Order 61. Of course, there's much more!
We celebrate two Newton-Azrak Award recipients on the anniversaries of their actions.
We remember four of our fallen on the anniversaries of their deaths.
Enjoy and have a fantastic week!
ESPRIT DE CORPS
The workplace climate resulting from a combination of organizational pride and employee morale.
Esprit de corps is reinforced through the shared goals, mission and values of the organization and its employees.
The definition turns Esprit de Corps into a simple formula and defines parts that comprise organizational pride and employee morale.
Esprit de Corps = Organizational Pride + Employee Morale
Esprit de Corps is the key to a healthy organization and engaged employees.
Honor First is foundational to the Border Patrol's organizational pride and integral to its Esprit de Corps.
DOCUMENTS AND EVENTS
NEWTON-AZRAK AWARD ACTION ANNIVERSARIES
Follow this link to see examples of USBP employees Upholding Honor First.
Robert S. Herrera
Border Patrol Agent
On March 29, 1994, at approximately 9:30 a.m., Border Patrol Agent Robert S. Herrera responded to an intrusion device that had indicated activity near the Sanchez Canal, west of San Luis, Arizona. Upon Arrival, Agent Herrera observed a subject who appeared to be a male juvenile swimming to the east bank of the canal. While watching the subject swim to the other side, BPA Herrera’s attention was caught by a disturbance in the water just to the south of where the first subject was swimming.
Looking to the south, Agent Herrera saw a person’s head break the surface of the water and then go back under. Continuing to watch, Agent Herrera saw the person pop up again, flail the water, and gasp for air before disappearing beneath the surface again.
By the time the individual went under for the third time, Agent Herrera was on the bank of the canal, dropping his leather as he jumped into the water. In the middle of the canal, Agent Herrera was able to grab and eight-year-old child and bring him safely back to shore where BPA Matthew Sutton pulled him up onto dry land.
Robert Herrera’s actions on the morning of March 29, 1994, were above and beyond what is normally expected of an agent. He imperiled his own safety by leaping into a polluted canal to save the life of a child.
William T. Veal
Chief Patrol Agent
San Diego Sector
On the night of April 1, 1999, eastern San Diego County experienced very low temperatures and unexpected snow during a fierce overnight storm, which left many illegal entrant aliens stranded and lost in the rugged mountainous terrain of the area. Many of these people were in great peril of imminent death and at least seven others had already succumbed.
After ensuring that Sector resources were mobilized to cope with this emergency, Chief Patrol Agent William T. Veal, in the early morning hours of April 2, responded by flying into service the Border Patrol’s heavy lift UH-1 helicopter. Joined by the Patrol Agent in Charge of Air Operations, John D. Pool and Deputy Chief Patrol Agent Harold R. Beasley, he flew into very hazardous weather conditions to effect the rescue of stranded and hypothermic aliens. During this time, Chief Veal rescued eight aliens who were hypothermic and in imminent danger of death. The attending physician stated to rescue personnel that one of these individuals would have died had he not received medical attention within the hour. Additionally, by flying through treacherous terrain in deteriorating weather conditions, while fighting low ceilings, clouds, and fog, Chief Veal inserted Border Patrol and San Diego County Search and Rescue teams into accessible areas to search for stranded aliens. This included making landings in the same rugged terrain, at times with only one tip of a skid touching the ground.
With no regard for his personal safety, Chief Veal continued search and rescue activities until he was assured that no additional aliens were in peril. He flew a total of 6.9 hours with the only breaks being three brief refueling stops.
U.S. BORDER PATROL FALLEN
As of March 6, 2023 the U.S. Border Patrol has suffered 154* fallen.
The names that appear below hold a place of honor. They have made the ultimate sacrifice in an effort to fulfill the oath each officer took to protect and defend the United States of America.
The facts regarding each officer are presented without major editing of the "language of the day" found in the reports detailing the circumstances of each event. This is done to provide the reader an association with historical timeframes.
Employees who died in the line of duty due to being exposed to deadly illnesses will not have the cause of death listed.
I will note that Border Patrol Agent John Charles Gigax is not recognized as officially fallen by Customs and Border Protection or the U.S. Border Patrol. The Border Patrol Foundation and the Border Patrol Museum also fail to recognize him. He is remembered by all except organizations containing "Border Patrol" in their title. He is remembered by the:
The U.S. Border Patrol, the Border Patrol Foundation, and the Border Patrol Museum should fix their oversight.
HonorFirst.com remembers and lists Agent Gigax among the fallen.
Lee L. Bounds
Date of Birth: November 24, 1936
Entered on Duty: June 22, 1970
Title: Patrol Agent
End of Watch: March 29, 1974
Border Patrol Agent Lee L. Bounds of the Lordsburg Station, El Paso Sector, was killed in a jeep accident on March 29, 1974. He was traveling alone on a road between Animas and Rodeo, New Mexico, southwest of Lordsburg, and ran the jeep off the right shoulder of the road. He lost control when he attempted to steer the vehicle back onto the road and the jeep overturned. Bounds was thrown from the vehicle, which rolled over him before stopping in an upright position, Mr. Bounds’ head was crushed. The jeep, which was equipped with seat belts and roll bar, was damaged extensively.
Luis A. Santiago
Date of Birth: November 9, 1964
Entered on Duty: June 6, 1994
Title: Border Patrol Agent (Trainee)
End of Watch: March 28, 1995
At approximately 11:45 p.m., Agent Santiago was working in a canyon near Lower Otay Reservoir when he and other agents saw a group of about 20 illegal aliens. The agents identified themselves as Border Patrol and ordered the aliens to stop. The group scattered and the agents followed. Agent Santiago gave chase along the rim of the canyon, taking a narrow trail that leads to the edge of a cliff. He lost his footing on loose rock and slippery grass and fell approximately 120 feet to his death.
On June 6, 1994, Luis Santiago joined the U.S. Border Patrol as a BPA (Trainee) at the San Diego Sector/Brown Field Station in San Diego, California. After entering on duty, he was sent to the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Glynco, Georgia. On October 18, 1994, he graduated from the 267th Session and returned to San Diego. Agent Santiago was one week short of taking his ten-month examination.
Stephen M. Sullivan
Date of Birth: July 6, 1971
Entered on Duty: August 4, 1996
Title: Border Patrol Agent
End of Watch: March 27, 1999
On Saturday, March 27, 1999, Border Patrol Agent Stephen M. Sullivan was transporting a group of aliens on the Otay Truck Trail when his vehicle overturned and rolled down an embankment. Three of the aliens, who had been thrown from the vehicle, climbed up out of the embankment and approached another Border Patrol Agent, stating that others were still inside the vehicle and had been injured. Four people, including Agent Sullivan, were killed in the accident.
Agent Sullivan began his career with the INS as an Adjudications Officer in Los Angeles. He was hired by the Border Patrol in September 1997. At the time of his death, he was assigned to the El Cajon Station of the San Diego Sector.
Jarod C. Dittman
Date of Birth: September 9, 1979
Entered on Duty: March 5, 2007
Title: Border Patrol Agent
End of Watch: March 30, 2008
Border Patrol Agent Jarod C. Dittman was killed in a single-vehicle accident near Jamul, California in the early morning hours of March 30, 2008.
Agent Dittman was driving from the Brown Field Border Patrol Station to his assigned patrol area, when his service vehicle rolled over, ejecting Agent Dittman from the vehicle. Another Border Patrol agent drove up on the scene and immediately called for emergency assistance. Due to the heavy fog, an airlift helicopter could not respond. Agent Dittman was pronounced dead while enroute to the hospital.
Agent Dittman entered on duty with the U.S. Border Patrol on March 5, 2007, as a member of the 660th session of the Border Patrol Academy. He was assigned to the Brown Field Station immediately after graduation from the Academy. Prior to joining the Border Patrol, Agent Dittman served in the Pennsylvania National Guard.
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Blog author, retired U.S. Border Patrol Assistant Chief and, current U.S. Border Patrol employee advocate.
Site founder and owner, former Senior Patrol Agent and retired Immigration Special Agent.
U.S. Border Patrol historian and retired Deputy Chief Patrol Agent.
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